Microsoft's Dynamics AX 2012 ERP software suite is now available in 25 countries, with special incentives for customers willing to switch from rival platforms sold by Lawson Software, Microsoft announced.

AX is one of four ERP software lines Microsoft sells for companies of varying sizes.

"Traditionally, deploying enterprise applications has been like pouring electronic concrete," said Kirill Tatarinov, president of Microsoft Business Solutions. "But now customers require applications that support "speed and constant evolution," which AX 2012 delivers, Tatarinov said.

He went on to tout AX 2012's many "role centres," which essentially custom tailor the software's look and feel for various types of employees. Microsoft has used the design approach with other products in its business software catalogue as well.

AX 2012 also features BI as a "core ingredient," Tatarinov said. This notion of pervasive BI, delivered in context for users, is also central to Oracle's Fusion Applications.

Microsoft has yet to take the Dynamics suites fully into the cloud, although AX can tap a number of cloud services based on the Windows Azure platform. Dynamics NAV is expected to be the first fully cloud-enabled product in the family, with a release next year, Microsoft said at the Convergence conference.

During the virtual event, Microsoft showcased its home city of Redmond, which stopped using a JD Edwards system from Oracle in favour of AX. But the financial incentives announced instead target Lawson Software's S3 and M3 systems. Lawson was recently acquired by Infor, creating the industry's third largest ERP vendor after SAP and Oracle.

Infor has embarked on an ambitious plan to integrate its many products and provide a common user experience, as well as hiring hundreds of new engineers. Still, Microsoft appears intent to capitalise on any uncertainties Lawson customers may have over the products' future under Infor's control.

One incentive provides 50 percent licence discount on AX 2012 for eligible customers with valid Lawson S3 or M3 licences. Partners are also able to receive a credit for each Lawson-certified consultant that acquires certification on AX 2012. The offers are valid until June 22.

In a statement, Lawson downplayed the significance of Microsoft's move.

"Lawson enjoys one of the most loyal customer bases in the industry, as indicated by its very high customer retention rate," said spokesman Terry Blake. "One of the reasons for Lawson's high retention is continued investment in new product suites, modern technology and industry specific solutions. Lawson's investment in R&D has grown for many years, and grows even greater after the acquisition by Infor and Golden Gate Capital."

"In addition, substituting discounts for product functionality has been tried but it is never relevant for mission critical applications," Blake said.

But Microsoft has invested as well, particularly in new features for AX, such as fund accounting and grant management, that make it a better fit for the public sector entities where Lawson is a mainstay, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.

The price cuts Microsoft is offering are "significant," since the vendor's usual discounts off list price aren't as high as other companies', which can fall in the 80 to 90 percent range, Wang added. "Whenever Microsoft enters a market, they do start price wars."